Lose 10 Pounds and Your Blood Pressure Medication
Date updated: September 27, 2006
By Darin Painter
Content provided by Revolution Health Group
Toprol, Inderal, Blocadren, Levatol — it's hard enough tough to pronounce these blood pressure medicines, let
alone take them daily for the rest of your life. Commit to shedding some weight, and you could end the need to
Some types of blood pressure medications make your heart beat less often and with less force — results you
can achieve on your own through healthful diet and exercise.
"The medical benefits of eliminating sodium and restricting calories clearly lowers blood pressure, particularly in
patients who already are hypertensive," says Curtis M. Rimmerman, M.D., medical director of the
Cardiovascular Medicine Department at the Cleveland Clinic.
"Through simple lifestyle changes, people can lower their blood pressure by themselves. There's no question,
patients with high blood pressure can reduce or eliminate their medication," he says.
Set a goal and know your BMI
Here’s a simple, stark truth: Your blood pressure rises as your body weight increases.
"Losing weight has the biggest effect on those who are overweight and already have hypertension,"
Rimmerman says. (Hypertension is another word for high blood pressure.)
Begin with a goal of losing 10 percent of your current weight. To lose one pound a week, the average person
needs to burn 500 calories a day more (or eat 500 calories a day less) than usual. A plan like this is the
healthiest way to lose weight and offers the best chance of long-term success, according to the National
Body mass index (BMI) — a measure of your weight relative to your height — and waist circumference are two
key measures used to determine if you’re overweight or obese. BMI gives an approximation of total body fat: a
value of 25-29.9 indicates a person is overweight, and a value of 30 or higher indicates obesity.
But BMI alone doesn't determine hypertension. Someone who's muscular or has swelling from fluid retention
(edema) likely has a higher BMI. That's why waist measurement needs to be checked. A measurement of more
than 35 inches in women and more than 40 inches in men is considered high.
A fitting strategy for the not-so-fit
Before starting an exercise program, be sure to talk with your doctor. "If you've been inactive for decades, you
may need a stress test to make sure there's no silent abnormality," Rimmerman says, adding that exercise
physiologists are trained to customize exercise programs for patients.
"Going from zero activity to 10 minutes on the treadmill is a huge step in the right direction. These patients
need a program that's sustainable and attainable — one they can come back to day after day."
Moderate-level physical activities include walking one mile in 15 minutes, swimming laps for 20 minutes,
gardening for 30 to 45 minutes and raking leaves for 30 minutes.
A disciplined plan works best
"Sustainable results require discipline and a realistic approach," says Rimmerman, who recommends creating
a workout environment that's enjoyable. (He exercises in his basement while watching ESPN.)
"Weight reduction leads to an improved emotional state of well-being, and it has a positive impact on vascular
tone, blood vessel relaxation and, therefore, blood pressure," he says.
Moshe Lewis, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco,
says routine exercise has greater benefits than the routine of popping pills.
"Sometimes we're practicing alchemists, and we try our best to make sure medications are working," he says.
"But everyone's different, and the best way to deal with high blood pressure medication is to prevent the need
DASH-ing to lower blood pressure
You require only about 500 milligrams of sodium a day, but the average American ingests between 6,900 and
9,000 milligrams. If you’re an African-American or have a family history of hypertension, too much salt in your
According to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trial sponsored by the National Heart, Lung,
and Blood Institute (NHLBI), when people with high blood pressure ate eight to 10 servings of fruits and
vegetables a day and two to three servings of low-fat dairy foods, they lowered their blood pressure within a
The gist of DASH is to limit your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, and load up on nitrites such as leafy
green vegetables. African American men who followed DASH had even greater reductions in blood pressure
than white men who did, according to the NHLBI.
Some over-the-counter drugs, including arthritis medications and dietary supplements like ephedra, ma huang
and bitter orange, can raise your blood pressure.
While you're shedding weight, make sure to tell your doctor about any nonprescription drugs that you're taking,
and ask whether they may make it harder for you to bring your blood pressure under control.
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